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Blog Archive: November 2014

How To Clown
A few weeks ago I was talking to Mr H Carr after our WRITERS' GROUP about CLOWNING. Yes, that's right, I am DEAD CLASSY. He'd been on a course to learn about it in France, so it turned out to be the FRENCH type of clowning i.e. not being very funny while looking sad, as opposed to not being very funny while pretending to throw a bucket of water over someone.

He'd been told that the KEY to any kind of performance is to give the impression to the audience that you're enjoying it. Even if you're in character as someone miserable (i.e. like a SAD CLOWN or something) you have to convey to the audience that the human you underneath it all is happy to be there, and then THEY will be happy to watch you. I thought this was quite interesting as it made me think of all the old-time comedy GREATS who do exactly that. Obviously Morecambe & Wise do this to the XTREME and its obvious just from watching them but, as Mr J Dredge pointed out when I was telling him about it, so did Les Dawson, whose ACT was being curmudegeonly but seemed to be enjoying it too. As long as you think the person on stage is having fun then YOU will too.

I was pondering this again on Wednesday night when The Gags In My Act and I went to The Wanstead Tap to see Mr John Otway. Regular readers will no doubt be thinking "PHEW! You have only seen Otway about 800 times so far in your life, you need to top up" and you would be almost right. I reckon I've seen him about 50 times, but then I've only been going to see him for about 25 years so cannot be blamed for such a low score.

Seeing Otway is ALWAYS a treat, but especially so this time as he was playing a) not far from our house and b) in a LOVELY Beer Bar which was FULL of tasty beers! The actual gig was excellent too and we laughed and cried in pretty much all of the same places as we ALWAYS do. This is what made me think about the CLOWNING thing - whenever I watch Otway I am filled with ENORMOUS JOY, largely because of the ENORMOUS JOY he projects from the stage. It's pretty much the same set every time - a LOT of the gags have been exactly the same for the ENTIRE QUARTER CENTURY that I've been going - but he always seems to take fresh DELIGHT every time he does them. For instance, there's one NEW bit (NB by "new" i mean "has been introduced in the current century") that he does as if he's JUST thought of it and I still find hilarious despite having seen it at LEAST five times before. It works because, as Monsieur Le Chief Clown would doubtless say, Otway gives the very definite impression that he really IS enjoying it.

I suppose it's a fancy way of saying that FUN breeds MORE FUN, which certainly applies to the great man. We had a fantastic night - the only downside is that now we have nearly THREE MONTHS before we go and see him again - how will we survive?

posted 28/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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A Cure For The Mystery Illness
It was a bit of a funny old day yesterday full of mild PAIN and GRATE delight. The pain was caused by the fact that I had a Mysteriously Illness. I can't think what caused it - I was FINE on Monday night when I went out with Mr S Hewitt for a couple of pints and a gig. I can't see what could POSSIBLY have changed between doing that and waking up the next morning feeling DREADFUL.

The gig, by the way, was Allo Darlin' at The Scala, and it was BRILL. It was (and always is) a bit WEIRD seeing people i don't even know, let alone am currently in BANDS with, carrying Fortuna Pop tote bags or, indeed, listening to Fortuna Pop bands, and there were HUNDREDS of them there. The gig itself was similar to the last time I saw them at Indietracks. For the first three or four songs I thought "Yes, this is all very nice and excellent, but I do not feel totally engaged - maybe this is the moment that My Favourite Band Who Are Still Gigging CEDES that title?" Shortly after that, just as at Indietracks, the gig went ZOOM and became AMAZING. I think it was around "Crickets In The Rain" (my favourite from the new album) which is INCREDIBLE, and when they rolled into "Tallulah" (NOT at the encore for a change) the whole room was a) AGOG b) SILENT c) having a little bit of a CRY. After that it was FULL-ON HITS and the whole room was leaping about. It was ACE!

So why, after all that (and popping up the road for another cheeky pint afterwards) I should feel so grotty the next day I cannot think, but grotty I did feel. By mid-morning I was ready to go back to bed and REBOOT the whole day, but was cheered up by The Post In My Postbox returning from the lobby of our flats with some MAIL. It was a formal letter from the Vice Chancellor of City University confirming that I had indeed PASSED the MA in Creative Writing (Playwriting and Screenwriting) what I have been working away on for the past two years. I'd had the information online at the end of last week but having it on an official letter was exciting all over again especially as it meant we could re-check the grade and find that, yes, it still said that I had got a DISTINCTION! A distinction! I still can't quite believe it - this disbelief is not ENTIRELY modesty, I mean, I thought the script I did was pretty good, but I've spent much of the past two years telling The Grades In My Marks Sheet that i WOULDN'T be getting a distinction ("that's not really the point" i would say, "It am about the writing wot happens") that it's taking me a while to get my head round it. I am mostly trying TO get my head round it by telling people loudly in pubs and, as of today, on this blog, so hopefully that'll help. If that doesn't work I guess the next stage will be to MODESTLY hire a SKY WRITER PLANE.

We both did the small dance of joy in the kitchen again and progressed with our afternoon - in my case this involved quite a lot of sitting on the sofa, groaning, and saying "Oh dear, I think I am too poorly for HULA HOOP class today." Hula Hoop class, by the way, is an Exciting Thing we do every week - the people who run/OWN the Olympic Park put on free exercise classes for residents via the marvellous Our Parks organisation, and the pair of us have been doing HULA HOOPING since the summertime. It's a lot of fun and, in my case, EXACTLY as DIGNIFIED as you can probably imagine.

The Athletes In My Exercise Group suggested that doing some exercise would probably HELP my Mystery Illness and by golly she was right. An hour and a bit later we returned to the flat REVIVIFIED to find my phone saying I had 34 new messages. THIRTY FOUR? Clearly something was going on so I turned on the laptop and rapidly discovered that we had been played on the radio! The excellent Mr Steve Lamacq had played the single version of The Lesson Of The Smiths (with swearing removed!) as part of his Lost 45 feature! He said he'd been going through some old t-shirts in preparation for Wear Your Old Band T-Shirt To Work Day and found his "I VALIDATE!" t-shirt from our WE VALIDATE! album tour back in 2006. I was really very touched to know that he had KEPT it, and excited to be back ON AIR! It's funny how all that's changed - when first we got played on the radio, LO back even in the 1990s, you'd find out because someone would RING you. Now it's all on twitter, with retweets and wotnot, and you can Listen Again for yourself. It's ACE!

Best of all, it turns out that hula hooping plus being on the radio can pretty much SORT OUT a Mystery Illness as I spent the remainder of the evening hopping about with JOY, so NEXT time it happens - if of course it ever does - I know how to CURE myself! HOORAH! Let's celebrate with a tonne of BEER!

posted 26/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Overdub Day
Last Sunday found ALL Validators returning to the studio with Mr R Collins - even arriving within 60 seconds of each other - for OVERDUB day.

Before any actual overdubs could happen, however, our first priority was to do a VIDEO for Easy Christmas, our new Christmas single (which will be available from December 8th, by the way). The plan was for our VIDEO CREW (Miss E and Miss L Pattison) to record the whole thing using an APP but it didn't quite work out that way - there were COMPLICATIONS and DIFFICULTIES but, after Quite A Lot of "discussion" we ended with the girls filming us miming to the song a couple of times. They've done FILTERS on the Moviestar APP which, we hope, I'll be able to edit into a video of some kind. I didn't really understand what was going on, which did make me feel a bit OLD, but we made up for it with some DRESSING UP, as demonstrated below:









Once that was all done Frankie went off for some BRUNCH, Tim did SLEIGH BELL overdubs, then me and Emma did our vocals for Easy Christmas. As previously stated this was the number one priority due to the rather pressing FESTIVE DEADLINE, but it all went SWIMMINGLY and we mixed it in no time. It sounds GRATE!

With that all sorted Tim took the CREW to the pictures leaving me, Tom and Emma with Rich to work on some more vocals. I did a batch of mine first, which was TREMENDOUS fun - I went into the booth and sang each song 2 or 3 times, then Rich COMPED the best bits from each take together into one. Once THAT was done we'd listen and then I'd go back to do individual bits that still needed work. I usually find this part of the recording process a bit stressful, but thoroughly enjoyed myself this time, especially BELLOWING You Make Me Feel Soft Rock. As you can see, Tom and Emma thoroughly enjoyed the process:



I did vocals for three songs all together - (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 and That Guy - then Emma went in and did her vocals on the same. We did Emma's in a similar way to mine but it took a bit longer as she was doing HARMONIES - and more specifically harmonies to MY SINGING, which is always a bit challenging! The highpoint of this was when Rich ended up putting the word "Kraken" on a loop so that Emma, he, Frankie (who'd returned from BRUNCHING) and Tom could work out the correct harmony for it. Those who know Emma will be SHOCKED to know that by the end of this the air in the vocal booth had turned QUITE BLUE. I was APPALLED!

Luckily the FOUL LANGUAGE had abated by the time Tim returned with daughters, and the five of us gathered back in the live room for our final job of the session - hand clap and AIR PUNCH overdubs for (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. You might not think it possible to RECORD air punches, but let me tell you it makes ALL the difference!

With all that done Rich ran us off mixes of the weekend's work and it was time for HUGS and goodbyes. Tom gave me a lift back to Derby station and as we motored through the wintery streets we MARVELLED at how much we'd got done. Everyone always goes on about how The Beatles recorded their whole debut album in a single day but a) they didn't do all of it, they had four songs already b) it had to be done pretty much as live and c) they'd been playing the songs for AGES, so, in a very real sense, we were AS GOOD AS THEM! Over the weekend we'd done about HALF of all the work for the album - at least seven songs nearly finished, which is INCREDIBLE for us. It turns out that NOT filling everything with orchestras, explosions, and DINOSAURS makes it a lot easier!



The plan is to learn up 3 or 4 more songs in the new year then, hopefully, get it finished off maybe late summer 2015. Of course, i ALWAYS say this and it ALWAYS takes three years, so we'll see, but I must say I'm VERY happy with how it's gone so far - it sounds GRATE!

posted 25/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Rock History Commences
Saturday was an auspicious day in the annals of ROCK for LO! The Validators began work on their SIXTH studio album! Note this day well, oh you historians of ROCK, and also of ROLL.

I had to get up at KRAZY o'clock in order to be at the studio in Derby at 10:30am, but this was more than made up for by the fact that I bumped into Mr K Hewick in Derby town centre. I was quite surprised to see him and he was very surprised to see me but we had a LOVELY chat and he, ever the prepared professional, even gave me a couple of CDs. He'd been in town to play at a Kevin Coyne tribute the night before (which coincidentally our very own Mr FA Machine had been at) and was on his way to a Christmas Fair back in Oadby. It was lovely to see him!

I thus arrived at Snug full of happiness which was only increased when I was greeted by the smiling face of Mr T Pattison, saying "You're just in time - I'm about to do the drums!" He'd been in since slightly earlier with Mr R Collins, our engineer/BOSS for the weekend, setting up the kit and LUCKY ME I'd arrived just right to not miss ANY of about an HOUR of drums being hit. MY FAVOURITE BIT.

Mr T "The Tiger" McClure and then Frankie arrived within the next five minutes and we were QUORATE (as Mrs E Pattison would not be arriving until curry o'clock). We had a chat while the drums pounded then got ourselves together and, by 11:30am, were ready to WORK.

And work we very much did as, over the next few hours, we PLOUGHED through a TONNE of songs. The EASE with which we did this was aided by several things, notably the FACTS that 1) Tom had printed out a Spreadsheet Of ROCK 2) we'd spent the past year Actually Learning The Songs (a revolutionary idea which I suggest other AVANT GARDE groups like us experiment with) and 3) the studio was set up right nicely for us. As usual Tim and Frankie were in the main recording room, with me glaring out at them from the control room, but this time we had Tom in the seperate recording booth so we could all play along together. Here's my view of proceedings:



This way all of us could see MOST of the rest of us, and we were all connected via microphones and headsets, so we could RATTLE along, eventually recording (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, 20 Things To Do Before You're 30, Easy Christmas, That Guy, Burn It Down And Start Again, We Did It Anyway and Leaping Hare In Broadgate. We worked SO efficiently that we EVEN had time to fulfil a long-held dream of Tim's by Jamming In The Studio! I'm not sure quite how well that actually went, but we did DO it at least! We also had a quick go at re-recording I Want To Find Out How It Ends but, as Rich said: "You can do it better another time. Go to the pub."

Who were we to argue? We packed up for the day and headed out to Frankie's local, where Mrs Machine joined us, and then on to BALTI INTERNATIONAL for the traditional Validators' Christmas Curry. Emma joined us there and a HIGH old time was had. There'd been some suggestion of sorting out gig plans and album titles, but as far as I recall it was mostly CURRY and LARFS. We said our farewells full of the joys of ROCK, ready to reconvene next morning for more of the same!

posted 24/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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First Drafting
I've been working REALLY HARD for the past few weeks, doing THE WRITING!

It all started around the time of the screenwriters' festival, when I realised that I didn't have anything NEW and FINISHED to hawk around, so I decided to do something about it. I had two ideas, a film and a sitcom, which I'd been thinking about for AGES but had never got around to actually WRITING. I had to do one-pagers (i.e. a logline and synopsis) for them for the festival, based on a TONNE of prep I'd done for each previously, so once all that was finished I sat myself down and wrote proper TREATMENTS for each. This is a screenwriting thing where you write out the whole plot like it's a prose story, with bits of dialogue along the way. The idea is that if you're working on a TV show or something you can show it to the Producers who can then make suggestions/changes before you've gone to all the trouble of writing a full script, but it's also a GRATE thing to do when you're just writing at home. It's MUCH easier to see problems with the plot and FIX them at this point than when it's full length. When I did my big script for the course last year my mentor, Mr A Cartmel, was VERY keen on getting this fully sorted, and we spent about as long PLANNING as I did actual DIALOGUE writing.

So, I spent quite a while working on the treatments and, once that was done, did myself a PLAN, giving myself two weeks to do the first draft of the film script and one week for the sitcom. This was JUST to do the first drafts - I thought that the best idea would be just to DO it and worry about whether it was any good later. Re-writing stuff is the FUN bit, but you need to WRITE something before you can RE-write it so I made it a rule to NOT go back and read what I'd done. I did have to go back a couple of times to check/change things, but the joy of having the proper treatment is that I didn't really NEED to. I knew where I was in the story and what was happening next, so all I needed to concentrate on was typing it out. I thus sat myself down every day for a couple of hours and TYPED!

I know it seems like I was just hacking it out, but it flipping worked - last Thursday I got to the last page of my film script and did a VICTORY LAP around the flat! On Monday - after spending the weekend getting excited about it - I started writing the sitcom and by lunchtime today I'd FINISHED. The sitcom especially is going to need a LOT of work - for starters it's nearly twice as long as it should be and definitely needs some more GAGS, but that's all part of the plan. The important thing today was to a) get to the end b) do another VICTORY LAP around the flat!

The next stage of the plan is to print the film script out and take it with me on Saturday to read on the train to Derby (it's Validators Recording Weekend! ZANG!) then work on RE-WRITES all next week. This is ALSO quite exciting - as I say, I've not looked at it at ALL since I got to the final page of typing, so have no idea what it's like and will (hopefully) have forgotten some of it while my BRANE was concentrating on the sitcom. I've got myself scheduled to spend a week working on that then flip over and do the same for the FOLLOWING week on the sitcom, this time reading it on trains to and from Norwich and Northampton on tour with Gav. After that it'll be the same again for NEXT drafts, and then I'll try and get some people to READ them and see what they think.

It's not quite the POETIC IDYLL of me sitting with a QUILL gazing at CLOUDS but it DOES seem to work, and if it means I've got some NEW STUFF to send people/enter into competitions/show off about after Christmas then it'll all have been worth it. For now though I'm going to have a couple of days off of The Writing and a couple of days ON with THE ROCK in Derby - ROCK HISTORY awaits!

posted 20/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Prepare The Care Home
I've had a couple of incidents so far this week which, if I was slightly older/even more infirm, would have a concerned Social Worker making calls around the local social housing agencies.

The first was on Sunday when I had a bit of a FALL. I was on my way to the swimming pool when I was distracted by a piece of Interesting Roof. Stratford International train station has a large AWNING which stretches out over the adjoining road, almost reaching the awning that comes out of the associated DLR station. The gap is covered by a small square piece of roofing which, I realised, was there to enable people to squeeze drily between the two stations when it was raining. Unfortunately, just as I was being PLEASED by this, I was also crossing the area where the slope towards our house turns into STEPS and gently blends into the station forecourt at a not quite normal angle (it is a DEATH TRAP) and so TRIPPED over, sending me flummoxing forward. In these situations the BRANE does a super speedy risk assessment, and thought "One knee is definitely going down HARD, that's a write-off, but if we adjust the fall and put our hands out we should be able to get away without a twisted ankle".

It thus could all have been a lot worse but CRIKEY it didn't HALF hurt and shook me RIGHT up. You know when small children fall over, pause a moment, and then SCREAM with tears? That's exactly how I felt. Unfortunately there were a couple of other people around who asked if I was OK, so I had to say "Yes thank you, all fine" when what I really wanted to do was sit on the floor and CRY and be a bit sick.

I BRAVELY staggered on to the swimming pool, only to find that it was peak time so my off-peak pass wouldn't work, and so had to hobble back home un-swam. It was all a bit upsetting, but as time has worn on I've been rewarded for my IMMENSE BRAVERY with a COLOSSAL BRUISE. It's brilliant! I feel like a 7 year old boy with a scabby knee, as I want to keep LOOKING at it and, if possible, SHOWING it to people - my whole right knee has basically gone black and swollen to TWICE it's size. I've just had another look at it - it's better than telly!

The second incident happened yesterday, on Monday night. I'd just finished another rehearsal with Mr S Hewitt, where we'd tried out a NEW PROP, agreed on the PLAN for the next few weeks and generally ENJOYED the show (although it still feels disarmingly straightforward - it can't be THIS easy, surely?), and as we headed back towards Tottenham Hale station I saw my TRANE leaving the platform. It was a bit annoying as they only go from Tottenham Hale to Stratford every half hour, but when I got to the platform itself the Stansted Express had just arrived. This is a quick-ish train which goes direct to Liverpool Street and so, I reasoned, if I hopped on this I could then get a train from there back to Stratford. It would take quite a bit longer than the direct train BUT would involve less hanging around outside so would, overall, be a) a bit quicker b) a lot warmer than waiting around here.

I got to Liverpool Street and as I stepped off saw another train about to leave on the other side of the platform. I often catch a train from there and there's always LOADS going to Stratford, so I stepped across, hopped on, and was soon heading EAST again. We soon stopped at Bethnal Green, which was odd as Stratford's usually the first stop. Gradually I realised that I had in fact got on the WRONG TRAIN. It turns out that NOT all trains go to MY HOUSE and so I got off at the next station and checked my options. Walk to a near-ish tube station? Get a bus? Find a taxi? LONDON PANIC!

In the end I decided the easiest/least risky thing to do would be to just get the next train BACK to Liverpool Street and try again. This I did and ended up getting home only about 10 minutes later than I would have done if i'd just WAITED, a slightly older and WISER Hibbett who next train won't just assume that ALL the trains are for ME.

It's been a worrying couple of days, but I'm sure everything'll be all right from now on. Anyway, must dash - before I get out my Sholly to do my shopping I've got someone at the door who wants to tarmac my drive and then I'm using an old step-ladder to put a new light fitting in!

posted 18/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Career Development
Since I stopped having an actual JOB I appear to have WORKED more than I have ever done before in my entire life. Last week though I went one step further and did something I almost NEVER did in my 20+ years of Actually Having A Job: CAREER DEVELOPMENT!

The first part of the TRAINING SCHEME that my employer (me) had sent me on happened on Thursday afternoon, after (another) very good meeting with Mr J Dredge about STUFF. I wandered over to The Phoenix Theatre Artists' Club for a Writers' Guild Of Great Britain night for new members, where got given name badges and did NETWORKING. When I signed myself up for it I was TERRIFIED, but since doing a whole weekend of talking to strangers at the Screenwriters' Festival I found it all to be FINE, and spoke to some very nice people indeed. I even got some INFO - apparently there's another topical sketch show, in Brighton, that you can send sketches to, so we'll have to get ON that.

Next morning I got up at RIDICULOUS o'clock to go and Sign On again, although it turned out that it was just a "catch-up". I told my nice signing on lady all about the Edinburgh Fringe and she very politely listened, then suggested I might be eligible for the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme. As far as I can gather this is the same as the old Enterprise Allowance Scheme except a) it's new b) but it'll soon be abolished, so I need to get in quick. The other thing I know about it is that BANDS used to all be on it in the 1980s, so I am confident that this time next year I shall be forming OASIS.

That done I headed back into London Town to attend a day long course called "Finance For Freelancers". Having been on PAYE for my whole working life the very idea of TAX fills me with UTTER DREAD so I thought I'd have another go at doing a course about it, having been on a RUBBISH one a couple of years ago. As I approached Equity HQ, where the course was taking place, I considered just GOING HOME, and convinced myself that I could probably do the first session then leave before lunch. It's weird - i KNOW that this is something I want to do and have booked myself, but two decades of a JOB have drummed it into me that any kind of training day is a CHORE to be got out of as quickly as possible!

I'm glad I DIDN'T flee though, as it was GRATE. It was run by David Thomas who I would highly recommend to ANYONE as he was BRILLIANT. Between 10:30am and 4:30pm he told us, as far as I can tell, THE LOT. Tax! VAT! Invoicing! Chasing invoices! Business plans! Sole Traders and Limited Companies! At the grand old age of 44 I feel like i FINALLY understand what on earth all that stuff is about, and indeed feel quite INSPIRED to actually BE freelance - or, to be more exact, a self-employed sole trader. My BRANE was throbbing with all the new FACTS which, several days later, it is STILL working through.

As well as being inspiring and informative he was also a GRATE example of How To Deal With Troublemakers. As ever on this sort of course there was one person who didn't quite understand how it all worked - in this case one of those people who are SO POSH that they can't sit properly or change the volume of their speech. Every time he made a Good Point, when the rest of us would smile, nod, or murmur "Hmm!" she would go "WOW! Really? That's DISGRACEFUL/AMAZING/APPALLING" and then two minutes later ask a question that he'd JUST answered, or give an example from her own WEIRD life, or just SAY something. I personally wanted to leap across the table and lead a ruthless mob of killers, but he remained calm throughout, answering questions politely where he was able and otherwise firmly, but always politely, just saying "No." It was an example of How To Do It that i hope to recall next time I am faced with a Difficult Audience Member.

Best of all, however, was shortly after the course had finished when I met up with The Carriages In My Train to head out of town to see some PALS. On the way I told her all about what I had learnt, and every time she said (for instance) "Did he mention invoicing?" or "when DOES a company have to register for VAT?" i totally knew the answer. Obviously NOW most of the information is evaporating out of my MIND, but he also gave us HANDOUTS!

It was a great couple of days full of ADVANCEMENT. It's beginning to feel like I could DO this!

posted 17/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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And So It Begins Again (Again)
On Monday night I was back at Bally Studios in Tottenham Hale to commence rehearsals for me and Steve's NEXT show 'Hey Hey 16K'. We were back in the same room at the same time as usual and it all felt VERY familiar - which confused me a bit, as surely it had been two YEARS since the last show, but Steve pointed out that we'd returned earlier this year to re-learn Total Hero Team for the York New Musical's Festival back in the summer.

This time, however, we were embarking on a WHOLE NEW SHOW and we were doing it in a WHOLE NEW (well, slightly new) WAY. Previously we've used rehearsal time to sit down and go through the show from start to finish every week without stopping. This has been quite a nice way to get to know it, but I've always been conscious of the fact that a) it doesn't really give many options for changing it b) it's not a particularly good way of learning it c) nobody else in the history of THE ARTS ever rehearses like that. Thus, in a dramatic turnaround from usual practice I suggested that we try it the NORMAL way. KRAZY, i know!

Hence we spent the first three quarters of our allotted time working on the SONGS. We prioritised these because we reckoned that if we at least have the songs sorted out by the time we do our first gig (currently scheduled for Leicester in February) then we should be able to BUMBLE through the rest of it. Some of them are OLD ones which we'd pretty much know already, but there's a batch of new ones to work through and I know from previous experience that the UNIQUE JAZZ PHRASINGS of my lyrics do take other people a while to get their head round. Imagine then my surprise, also GLEE, when Steve got there pretty much IMMEDIATELY. There's one song in particular, "I Wish That I Was Normal" that even I (what wrote it) have a job fitting the words to, but by the second run through he'd got it RIGHT. I was so amazed I forgot the chords! Admittedly I don't have to be VERY, or indeed AT ALL, amazed to do that, but I was!

We made several adjustments along the way, including changing the JOURNEY of 'The Future Is Amazing' and replacing the closing MEDLEY with a REPRISE, before turning our attention to the BOOK. We worked our way through the first 8 (of 27) pages, and had a FINE old time doing so. As planned we did it little bit by little bit, going back and trying things different ways and making alterations, which was ACE. We removed and/or FINESSED certain sections, and also marvelled at how many JOKES there were! When I wrote Total Hero Team i was at the start of my MA so had a BRANE full of The Three Act Structure and Character Motivation, and I think that's why it took so long to BEAT it into the shape of a Comedy Musical. THIS time I've got a BRANE full of writing GAGS and SKETCHES, and GOODNESS me but you can tell from the script. SO MANY JOKES!

It was, in short, a really good practice which I hope will set the tone for a real good year or so of DOING the show. The plan is to spend the rest of 2014 practicing every week like this, getting it in the best shape we can before hunkering down and LEARNING it ready for Leicester. Call me crazy, but I think it's going to be fun!

posted 12/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Opening A Franchise
I was in NOTTINGHAM on Saturday, there to kick off the latest* (*there was one in Leicester) franchise for the Totall Acoustic. This one was operated by Mr Alex Hale, and so it was that he and I ended up sat in the Chameleon Cafe at 2pm saying "I'm sure SOMEBODY will turn up."

Shortly after 2pm some people DID turn up, and then some more, and then there were Quite A Few, which was DELIGHTFUL. After a brief introduction from Alex I stepped up to guide everyone through the theme tune, like an Indie Bruce Forsyth handing over to Claudia Winkelman), then Alex took over once again to ROCK the house with a set of TUNES. Mr Daniel Sheen was next with a set featuring 3 Lemonheads songs and thus, inevitably, a room full of people singing along very quietly. There was then a brief BEER break before Ms Shelley Jane did a rather ace set on the ukulele, and then it was my turn, during which I did THIS:
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Strangely Attractive
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • That Guy
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I had a THOROUGHLY good time - it was great to be doing a Normal Gig again (i.e. not like usual Totally Acoustic's where i have to try and do something different every time) and I was VERY pleased to get some new REMARKS in re: Hereward The Wake, amongst other things. It was GRATE - for me, if nobody else!

    Once that was all done and dusted we re-grouped round the corner in The Crafty Crow where I had a lovely a) pint b) chat with various people before heading off home again. It was a really nice way to spend a rainy weekend, and I'm already looking forward to going back next year, when Alex has us tentatively booked to do a Hey Hey 16K preview. He's got a whole six months worth of SHOWS to do between now and then though, and so I wish good luck to his FRANCHISE, and also all those who ROCK in it!

    posted 11/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Totally Quorate
    Thursday has turned into my "in town" day, where I go into Actual London and DO stuff, and this Thursday just gone was no exception. I did LUNCH with Ms E Morgan, where we talked about SITCOMS, and then had COFFEE with Mr J Dredge, and told each other lots of JOKES. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon!

    The main business of the day was yet to come, however, as it was time for another Totally Acoustic. This run has been, well, not exactly BLIGHTED but at least AFFECTED by various illnesses and ISSUES that have stopped people from being able to play and/or causing equipment to go wrong, so I arrived in the pub slightly trepidatious. I'd already had my originally booked act for the evening CANCEL so hoped that would be all that went wrong. SPOILERS: it was.

    I'd got there early so was able to tentatively book the NEXT run of gigs, which'll be running from February to June next year. The pub needed to CHECK a couple of them, so I'll wait until then to properly announce them, but it felt GOOD to know there'd be more!

    I was soon joined by Mr S Hewitt and then, just after 7, by a SLEW of people, pretty much ALL of whom were CHUMS of long standing. It was a bit ODD to be honest - many times the audience at Totally Acoustic has featured almost NO people I know in real life, but this time a METRIC TONNE of old pals rolled up. I ended up swanning about upstairs introducing people to each other like it was a SALON!

    All the ACTS had arrived in good time so we BEGAN in good time, although just as I was about to start I realised I needed a WEE so got Steve to welcome people - a job he did as if he was BORN to it. Once I returned we did the THEME TUNE and then i played THIS:
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Strangely Attractive
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • That Guy

  • It looks like an ODD little set but it seemed to work, and I rather ENJOYED it. It was nice to do songs at Totally Acoustic that I actually KNEW and it was, as ever, HEARTENING to have the new one, That Guy, go down well.

    After me we moved straight on to Mr Martin Austwick, who was a DELIGHT. I think he spent as much time EXPLAINING songs as SINGING them which, as anyone who's ever seen me live will know, is an ALIEN IDEA to me, but he did it with such STYLE and CHARM that it was thoroughly enjoyable and, as he said, gave us all a door into his unique, COMPLEX, thoughtful songs. It was ace!

    And then, after a beer break, it was time for The Patron Saint Of Totally Acoustic, Mr Pete Green, who was GRATE. Last time I saw him he'd said he was going to try out some POEMS and I must admit I was slightly AFEARED. I need not have been, as they were BRILL - funny, interesting, and really rather beautiful. The songs were good too!

    You can hear it all for yourself on the podcast, but what you can't hear is the rest of the evening, when we fell to MORE BEER before retiring en masse to the downstairs bar, where a large contingent of us stayed until well past closing time, YACKING and drinking whiskey. It was a lovely night, though the next morning was hard to deal with!

    posted 10/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Canterbury Day Two
    Our plan on the second day of our trip to Canterbury was to SPRING out of bed bright and early and head straight to Howletts Wild Animal Park. It didn't QUITE go as planned, partly due to SOMEBODY setting the alarm for 8PM rather than AM (i was tired!), but also due to the fact that Premier Inn beds are SO VERY COMFY. Say what you like about the advertising industry, but they've got that one right!

    Quite a lot of things didn't go to plan at this point, as my pre-visit research rather unravelled. We'd hoped to get a BUS to Howlett's but it turned out it wasn't running in this off-peak season, so I ended up having to ring the park itself to find out how best to get there. They were LOVELY - they first of all questioned whether we really wanted to go when the weather was so rotten (it rained a LOT), but then offered to come and pick us up THEMSELVES from the nearest train station! In the end we decided to get a mini-cab, but crikey, how many other places would make an offer like that?

    With a whole new city of experiences on offer we made the brave decision to stride over the road to the Waitrose Cafe for breakfast - we SEASONED TRAVELLERS do like to live dangerously - before getting a cab out to Howletts.

    As we arrived I was a bit worried about how much we'd actually see as it was SO grey and rainy, but as it turned out it was UTTERLY BLOODY AMAZING. The fact that we were there on a rainy Monday lunchtime in term time meant that we had the place very nearly to OURSELVES so could spend as long as we liked wherever we liked. Nearly ALL of the animals were out and about too - most of the small primates were (very sensibly I thought) staying inside in the warm, but we saw all sorts of INCREDIBLE animals. There were RHINOS and ACTUAL ELEPHANTS, there were (quite a lot of) wild dogs and wolves, TONNES of antelopes, big cats, monkeys/apes various, it was astounding. Sometimes I couldn't believe what I was looking at - could that really be a TAPIR? In KENT?

    Before we went The Features In My Brochure had had a WISH LIST of animals she most wanted to see, and to my delight we saw THE LOT - Elephants, Tapir, Honey Badgers and Capybara, all of whom were GRATE. We also spent AGES looking in AWE at the Gibbons, basically stunned by the way they interacted and, well, just EXISTED as such beautiful beings. I also let out a YELP when we came round a corner and saw a RUDDY GREAT TIGER! It turns out I am SCARED of Tigers, and it also turns out I am right to be so, as we saw memorials around the park later to THREE keepers who'd been KILLED by them!

    I'd been concerned before going about the ETHICS of this sort of place - this wasn't a ZOO but it was a place for KEEPING animals, so I was relieved to find that they all seemed very well looked after, with LARGE areas combining indoor and outdoor spaces, and going by the many displays all around LOTS of thought going into their care. Sometimes we'd come to what looked like a traditional ZOO viewing area - a sort of CABIN with a window on one side, with lots of animals inside it - where I'd think "this can't be right surely?" before noticing the VAST area outside that they were free to lope off into. This was especially clear when we saw the JAVAN LANGURS, who were all leaning against the window like a bunch of men leaning on a BAR waiting to be served, while through a FLAP they had access to about an ACRE of grass, trees and climbing frames. "Shall we see if we can get close without scaring them?" I asked as we crept RIGHT up, but all we did was PERTURB them by blocking their view of an (apparently fascinating) VAN.

    I know this is getting to be a bit of a LIST but it was SO BRILL that I still can't comprehend we saw so much. There were some DUSKY LANGURS (i had no idea there WAS such a thing as Langurs before Monday) with BRIGHT ORANGE BABIES, there were Actual Gorillas, beautiful CLOUDY LEOPARDS, Lions, deer, bison, lynx - it was FANTASTIC!

    After a lengthy wander round we got a taxi back to town with our minds TRULY BOGGLED by it all, collected our bags from the hotel, then went for some much needed LUNCH. Whenever we go somewhere new I always check to see if there's a Veggie Cafe because, well, One Feels One Ought, and Canterbury had The Vegbox cafe, which was LOVELY. It wasn't QUITE as old fashioned as i like veggie cafes to be (no BEAD CURTAIN into the kitchen) but they DID have the traditional cork board of notices, and downstairs there was a PROPER Vegetarian Shop which not only had a PILE of the sort of products you can only get in proper vegetarian shops (TEN kinds of pretend cheese for instance) but ALSO had its own cork board with a range of PETITIONS you could sign. LIKE.

    It also had some BEER which I felt HONOUR BOUND to buy, and thus it was we clanked off to catch the high speed home. 49 minutes later we were back in The Olympic Village (well, back in Tap East, our local, but still) ruminating on how amazing it had been to get there and back so quickly and to see so much. We're already planning our NEXT Mini-Break: Norwich - it has a lot to live up to!

    posted 5/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Canterbury Day One
    This weekend The Cathedral Of My Cloisters and I went to Canterbury for a MINI BREAK. The idea occured a few weeks go whilst waving The Family Machine off from Stratford International Station. We picked up a leaflet about Howletts Wild Animal Park and, noting that a) it was only 49 minutes from our station to Canterbury where the park is based b) we could get a voucher to give us 2 for 1 entry c) there are ACTUAL ELEPHANTS in KENT, we decided to go and make a TRIP of it.

    On Sunday morning we had great plans to get up bright and early and get there in time to have a look round the Cathedral, but it didn't work out quite like that due to LIE-INS (i'd been to see Peterborough United the day before and so was MENTALLY EXHAUSTED). We ended up getting to Canterbury just before 2pm and got a (rather expensive) taxi to our (not very expensive) hotel, The Premier Inn. In my experience Premier Inns are usually ODD places that have been converted into bedrooms from OFFICES and so feel WEIRD, but this one was LOVELY. It was so nice that I have already been on TRIPADVISOR saying so - the sure mark of quality!

    By this point we'd missed the normal looking around hours at the Cathedral so went to the PUB instead, thus echoing a choice made by generations of GALLANT BRITS. We went to The Foundry, a brew pub which was GRATE. We had every intention of going to EVENSONG at the Cathedral, but missed it due to the lovely BEER and also HUGE piles of food that we ended up ordering, so went round to the Beaney House Of Art And Knowledge instead. It had a funky name and had clearly been SPRUCED UP of late but it was still very much The Local Museum - you could tell by the fact it had TAXIDERMY tucked away in a side gallery! It also had a FANTASTIC Photography exhibition and a very touching World War I display too. There were two Christmas postcards home from the front from a local man who later died in the trenches, sent to his Mum and Dad (who he addressed as "my pal"), which had been passed on to his widow. She'd remarried, then when SHE died her second husband married again, and he'd kept the letters and passed him on to his son from THAT marriage. It took us a while to work it all out, but it was EXTREMELY moving.

    We then made our THIRD attempt at visiting the Cathedral, this time succeeding. We didn't actually get to go IN, but we have been inside a LOT of Cathedrals over the years. Instead we went ROUND it, sticking our noses into The Chapter House (which i don't think we were supposed to go into) and wandering round the Cloisters. It was GORGEOUS - as we were to find out over the rest of the trip, the fact that it was a bit rainy, and very much out of season, meant we got the place pretty much to ourselves!

    Feeling fully CULTURED UP we popped round the corner to The Shakespeare for COFFEE (which was very nice indeed), went back to the hotel to "freshen up" ("watch telly") and then headed out again for TEA. Being creatures of habit we went to ASK, which was delightful except that we got CONFUSED when the waitress changed clothes halfway through our visit i.e. she came back in a DIFFERENT COLOURED T-SHIRT to the one we'd first seen her in. Panic and Confusion reigned - WAS it the same person? Were there twins working here? WHAT was going on? We never did get to the bottom of it - this panic will be, i fear, reflected in my TripAdvisor comments. "Please avoid this in future by EITHER ensuring that all staff wear consistent clothing OR are clearly labelled as TWINS."

    After all that we were in need of a STIFF DRINK, so nipped into the bar of the Abode Hotel, which looked VERY swanky from the inside. It looked the same from the inside too, and we allowed the Nice Young Barman to mildly patronise us with a talk through the Whiskey Shelf. He seemed to assume we were just "starting out" with whisky (surely one look at my STOMACH would have hinted otherwise?) but he was being NICE so we didn't say "We've drunk TONNES of it mate, just leave the bottle". He did however refer to various brands as "approachable" which I think I shall use in future instead of just saying "It's nice".

    After all that we staggered back to the Premier Inn hoping for a good night's sleep, for LO! We had ELEPHANTS to see the next day!

    posted 4/11/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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